The Golden Bears’ first road game of the season will match them against the best team they’ve seen to date.
UNLV, which has played in the NCAA tournament the past two seasons and posted a combined record of 57-15 over that span, is off to a 5-0 start. Tipoff is 5 p.m. Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“They’re pretty good,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of Lon Kruger’s Runnin’ Rebels. “A lot of pick-and-roll stuff, a lot of pro concepts, where he tries to figure out who’s going to help on the pick-and-roll and he kicks to a shooter.”
Defensively, Cal will face another team without great size, but with great quickness.
“They try to disrupt you with their defense. They’ll overplay, they’ll switch, they’ll trap, they’ll press,” Montgomery said. “And they’re way more effective at home. Their aggressiveness goes way up at home.”
UNLV has forced 89 turnovers in its first five games.
Cal point guard Jerome Randle faces a big-time challenge in his senior counterpart, Wink Adams, who needs just 10 points to reach 1,500 for his UNLV career.
“Very quick, very aggressive,” Montgomery said of Adams. “He hasn’t shot it as well (39.7 percent), but he can get to the basket and he distributes. They have guys who space the floor very well. He gets a lot of penetration and finds open shooters.”
3-POINT CRAZY: Cal continues to lead the nation in 3-point accuracy, having converted 30 of 51 attempts for 58.8 percent. UNLV is at just 33.8 percent, but takes a backseat to few teams in terms of 3-pointers attempted. The Runnin’ Rebels already have hoisted 130 shots from beyond the arc — nearly half of all their field-goal attempts. Their average of 26.0 per game exceeds the 22.9 per game they fired off a year ago.
PICKING A WINNER: Coach Tom Schuberth, whose Texas-Pan American team lost to both UNLV and Cal, won’t be surprised if the Golden Bears win.
“If I had to base it on the two games, Cal’s the better team,” he said. “We’re down three at halftime at Vegas (and trailed Cal by 14). It’ll be a great game.
“I think Cal could be a special team,” Schuberth said after the Bears’ 85-58 win on Nov. 20. “They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
TIPOFF: 5 p.m. Friday, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas.
TV: None. RADIO: 1550 AM.
OUTLOOK: Cal (4-0) is winless in three previous games vs. UNLV (5-0), the Runnin’ Rebels winning in 1989-90, 2003-04 and 2004-05. First-year Cal coach Mike Montgomery, however, is 1-0 vs. UNLV, having posted a 77-66 victory over the Rebels during the 2002-03 season while at Stanford, earning his 500th career victory in the process . . . Cal will play either Florida State (5-0) or Cincinnati (4-0) in Saturday’s final game of the Global Sports Classic . . . Cal freshman guard Jorge Gutierrez and UNLV freshman center and Swedish native Brice Massamba were both starters last year for a 32-1 team at Findlay Prep near Las Vegas.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
PF Jamal Boykin, 6-8, Jr., 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
SF Theo Robertson, 6-5, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg
C Jordan Wilkes, 7-0, Jr., 5.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
SG Patrick Christopher, 6-5, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
PG Jerome Randle, 5-10, Jr., 19.8 ppg, 4.5 apg
PF Joe Darger, 6-7, Sr., 9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg
SF Rene Rougeau, 6-6, Sr., 9.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg
C Darris Santee, 6-8, Jr., 6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
SG Tre-Von Willis, 6-4, So., 7.6 ppg, 3.8 apg
PG Wink Adams, 6-0, Sr., 16.2 ppg, 3.8 apg